The locale: A Lake Ontario port city of 17,600, 3-plus hours east on I-90.
The scoop: This college town has a bit in common with The Queen City — lots of snow. Although it’s been roughed up somewhat over the decades, Oswego has interesting architecture scattered about the sprawling community, including the Norman-style public library and the Richardson-Bates House Museum’s Tuscan Villa design.
Many people get to know Oswego while at SUNY or during the mega-popular Harborfest. Summer crowds also get to tour a lighthouse, maritime museum and Fort Ontario. But Oswego’s not without its charms off-season. There are plenty of places to eat and winter sports to be enjoyed, as participant or spectator (think college hockey). There’s also the Feb. 3-4 Warm Up Oswego Fire & Ice Festival: A Hot 2K Trot Race, snow scavenger hunt, chili cook-off and fireworks. Whenever you visit, it’s important to know that a surprising number of places are closed on Saturdays, and even more on Sundays. So, call ahead or check online. Also, it can’t hurt to have a GPS at your fingertips since the highlights aren’t clustered in one part of the city.
The hit list
Best Western Plus Oswego Hotel and Conference Center, 26 E. First St. — The city has the usual chain hotels, but this one stands out because of its river view and superior staff. It’s also home to one of the community’s best restaurants, Alex on the Water.
Wade’s Diner, 176 E. 9th St. — This is a long-time local favorite and the spot to stop for morning sustenance. Serving up breakfast since 1934, Wade’s has earned rave reviews over the decades for its sausage gravy and biscuits and other traditional menu items. You can also take home a loaf of homemade raisin bread.
Port City Café & Bakery, 209 W. 1st St. — Try the paninis! Kristi’s Kravin is a delicious mixture of chopped portobello mushrooms, garlic, sundried tomatoes, provolone and mayo on crispy panini bread. It, and the lobster bisque and southern chicken soup, are so-o-o good!
The Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum and Educational Center, 2 E. 7th St., is dedicated to the most interesting part of the city’s history. Several walls of exhibits and a 37-minute video chronicle the journey of 982 Holocaust survivors from 18 countries. The video is moving, with several people who were children in the early 1940s telling their own stories of being brought to Oswego and spared near-certain death in a concentration camp.
Cross-country skiing and sledding, Fallbrook Recreation Center, Thompson Road. It links with Rice Creek Field Station at SUNY Oswego to create almost 200 acres of winter fun.
Oswego Expeditions, 11 Lake St., helps newbies get up and going with guided snowshoe tours, for $8/hour or $25 for up to six hours. Snowshoe rentals are available.
Ice climbing, Salmon River Falls. If you’re into extreme sports, you can try this wintry option 35 miles to the east of Oswego, but only if you’ve filled out the appropriate paperwork ahead of time. Check out the details, including restrictions, at Visitoswegocounty.com.